Mumbai, Oct 19 :
The BJP expressed determination to rule Maharashtra after emerging as the single largest group in a hung house Sunday after the NCP offered unexpected “outside support” to it, leaving the runner up Shiv Sena high and dry.
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah declared in New Delhi that the party “would form the government in Maharashtra”, but its make-up would be decided later.
The Nationalist Congress Party’s surprise decision served to send a strong signal to the BJP’s erstwhile 25-year old ally, Shiv Sena which it had dumped three weeks before the Oct 15 elections.
In an apparent climbdown, the Sena which was adamant over the chief minister’s post for supporting a BJP coalition till this afternoon, indicated it was willing to settle for deputy CM’s post this evening.
“Its good the BJP has performed well. We did not have the kind of machinery with campaigning by the PM, ministers and chief ministers. We had only our old set-up, we did very well,” said Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut before a high-level party meeting.
NCP leader Praful Patel, a confidant of party chief Sharad Pawar, said Maharashtra needed a stable government and hence his party was ready to prop up a BJP government from outside.
According to latest tally, the BJP was set to win 120 seats in the 288-member assembly, far short of the 145 needed to secure a legislative majority.
With the NCP’s expected 41 seats coming its way, the BJP can cruise through the threshold limit and rob the Sena of any bargaining power.
The Sena, ending up with around 63 seats, had earlier said that it was ready to make up with the BJP, a sentiment shared by some of the latter’s leaders, including L.K. Advani who called for a BJP-Sena rapprochement.
“I hope the BJP and Shiv Sena will come together,” said Advani, one of those leaders who was not happy with the BJP decision to dump its ally of 25 long years after a row over seat sharing ahead of elections.
The Congress, which along with the NCP had ruled Maharashtra for 15 years until their alliance collapsed before this election, are both expected to finish with around 41 seats each.
The BJP, which until now had played second fiddle to the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra assembly elections, credited the showing in the state to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popular appeal.
“People of Maharashtra have shown faith in Modi’s agenda of good governance. We are thankful to the people. The Congress was not even going to get the leader of opposition post as it is coming third,” Shah said in New Delhi.
Earlier Maharashtra BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis said that while no discussions had taken place with the Sena, “if the need arises, we expect our friends to support us”. He however also said the BJP was “deeply hurt” over the manner the Sena targeted Modi and the BJP during the election campaign.
Shiv Sena leader Anil Desai said the acrimony between his party and the BJP was history.
Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena meanwhile performed disastrously with barely three seats likely to come in its kitty, while other parties too cut a sorry figure in the state. Independents and smaller parties could have 19 members.
The NCP – which had snapped its 15-year old ties with Congress last month, blamed the latter (Congress) for the rout.
“It all happened because of (Prithviraj) Chavan,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said, referring to former Congress chief minister. “He had no understanding of the issues in Maharashtra, he did not take the right decisions, and he didn’t act when he had to.”
The NCP-Congress alliance came apart Sep 25, the same day the BJP dumped the Sena, triggering speculation that the NCP and BJP appeared to be in a secret deal.
As the BJP celebrated in Mumbai and New Delhi bursting crackers and distributing sweets, Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre resigned accepting moral responsibility for the party’s second consecutive rout – after the Lok Sabha elections – in the state in the past six months.